How Addiction Affects Coworkers

How Addiction Affects Coworkers

Gossip people in front of their office, handsome businessman portrait and racism gossip out of focus in background.

Today we continue our series on how addiction affects those in an addict’s life.  If you missed the opening post on how addiction affects families, you can find that here.  Today we will be exploring how addiction affects coworkers.  

Drug addiction costs American companies nearly $81 billion annually due to injury, missed work, theft, employee turnover, and more.  While there are many unemployed drug users, 70% of illicit drug abusers are actually employed (according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence).  The most commonly used substances abused in the workplace are alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and prescription drugs.  Read on to learn how these and other substances affect a work environment.  

Decreased Productivity

The most noticeable effect of drug addiction is decreased productivity.  Drug addiction can lead to absences and tardiness, as well as decreased attention and focus when on the job.  This can affect the performance of the entire team, forcing others to step up to fill in the gaps.  It makes it difficult if not impossible for coworkers to trust those with a substance abuse problem.  This behavior can put an addict’s job at stake.   

Increased Injuries

Drug and alcohol use increases the likelihood of sustaining workplace injuries. Those using substances are more likely to take unnecessary risks, have lowered concentration, and more. Statistics show that those with alcohol problems are 2.7 times more likely to sustain injuries in the workplace, 16% of all emergency room visits from those injured at work had alcohol in their system, and 11% of workplace fatality victims had been drinking.  

Signs of Drug Addiction

Many addicts hide their drug use from coworkers and employers, but there are some signs that there may be a problem.  Those include: blaming others for their mistakes, talking about money problems, decline in personal hygiene, vague illnesses, discussion of failing relationships, decreased performance, moodiness, strange energy levels, etc.  If you have a coworker who is struggling with addiction, it is important to keep a written log of any incidents, talk to your manager, set boundaries, and try not to enable their addiction (ie don’t cover for them or lend them money).  It may be necessary to talk to them directly about the problem if it progresses too far.  Don’t be surprised if your coworker isn’t ready to accept help.  Denial is a symptom of the disease of addiction.  Just let them know that if they need help, you’ll be ready to listen.  

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